Life Award 2013
23rd January 2014
Woken by the sun and dawn chorus.
We have breakfast on the veranda over the river, accompanied by the voices of locals pulling the chain which works the ferry across the river.
We are collected and taken to the hospital to meet all of the principal officers and the hospital team – CEO Baba Jeng, Principal Nursing Officer Wandifah and Saran Kohli Head of Laboratories.
We are once again welcomed by Baba Jeng and his team and Saran reminds us that we are now members of the Bansang Family by welcoming us home.
Next we are shown that work has started by visiting several of the new toilet facilities which we are told are a vast improvement! The next visit is to what would be called ‘Outpatients’ in the UK and reality strikes – leaking pipes, dripping taps, blocked wastes, cracked squat toilets, cold water from a tank exposed to glaring African sun and feeling like it is about 45 C. And to think I said hot water was an unknown quantity! I just didn’t expect it from the cold tap.
We immediately started kicking around ideas for improvements and then we are told that there is still more to see yet! By lunchtime we had seen more indescribable toilet facilities than we could cope with – some were beginning to be replaced with money from the BPEC Life Award 2013 – and that doesn’t include the laundry, kitchens, staff quarters (and their families) and consulting rooms.
Lunch brought a respite from the heat and seemingly endless challenges for the ‘plumbing aspects’ of the refurbishment work.
The kitchens and laundry were an odd aspect in that they were built by ‘the British’ and include solar thermal hot water systems which no-one seemed to know existed. Both places were built to be all electric in an area where the supply in notoriously unreliable. More to think about..
After lunch the sights were more upbeat – the men’s and women’s surgical and medical wards are bright and clean although the sanitary facilities require work.
The children’s unit is a very cheerful place (if that is not a contradiction). Despite the fact that they are in hospital the children smile and their mothers are extremely grateful to everyone for what is being done for them.
The end of the day and we have seen everything or so we thought! Anita shows us her next project, turning the unused 1st floor into the administration centre, a mere £35,000 is needed!
Another point on the kitchens, because the electric kitchen was not thought through, all the equipment is gas and the women who prepare the food do it all outside over open fires and wood ovens. Plans are under way to create a facility to save the ladies breathing in all the smoke.
By 6pm we all have Gambian names – Watson is Yaya, Mark is Lamin and Dave is Musa.
We are then introduced to the scooters which have been made available for us (Honda C90’s). While Mark and Watson try their first ever motorbike rides, Dave decides it would be safer to walk back to Paradise rather than having a bike assisted journey.
The homes along the road to Paradise are obviously those of very poor families but they are all dressed immaculately, particularly the women who seem to wear their ‘Sunday best’.
Everyone I meet says ‘hello’ or ‘how are you’ and my smiles are always returned. It is not the done thing here not to greet passers-by.
Many women have cashew nuts and dressed coconut for sale. Dressed coconut is paved down to a small ball of coconut with the milk still inside. Tempting!
Dinner tonight is on the unfinished veranda where there are no walls or handrails to stop us dropping off the edge into the Gambia river! Eat your heart out Health & Safety officers! An excellent salad is followed by a delicious lamb casserole and finished off with fresh papaya straight from the tree! This is paradise! We talk late into the night about the projects under a black African sky full of sparkling stars with bats skimming our heads as they feed on the insects.
Tomorrow we have to supply our initial report to Baba Jeng before Friday prayers.